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I made my first million shillings from pigs

Steve Ngari at his Toda Pig Farm in Ishiara, Mbeere, Embu County, last month. [Tony Mburugu, Standard]

For Steve Ngari, one of the best decisions he ever made was to leave his job in a bank and relocate to his home in the semi-arid Mbeere to start pig farming.

Three years on, the farm christened Toda Farm is now an established agribusiness in Embu County. 

“When I quit the banking industry for farming, I first tried my hand at rearing kienyeji poultry but I faced many challenges. One of the biggest was disease attacks,” says the 39-year-old agri-business entrepreneur.

Despite the heavy investment in terms of time and money, the poultry business never picked up. Two years down the line, he quit. In 2019, when he was still reflecting on what next, he met several pig farmers who convinced him to try his hand at pig farming. The risk has paid off.

Took a risk

“Pigs reproduce very fast and within a few months of rearing them, they give you several piglets. Imagine if you have four sows that get 14 piglets each twice a year. In five years, you have a pig ‘empire’. That is how we have grown,” says Ngari.

He says pigs are easy to manage because they are less susceptible to diseases; hence, the cost of production is lower compared to rearing other livestock.

“I did research and found that pig venture is rewarding. To start off, all you need is a structure, then acquire a minimum of four pregnant sows costing between Sh40,000 and Sh60,000 and a modest structure that costs Sh50,000. Within six months a farmer starts to get good returns,” he explains.

Toda Farm started with 50 pigs and with time, from the sales, it has grown into an investment worth close to Sh3 million.

“Our strategy is that we rear the pigs and sell to interested buyers. We also do value addition whereby we sell pork at our Pork Centre in Nkubu, Meru County. Because of the demand for pork, we have farmers who supply us with pork.”

BUSINESS MODEL

After an intense fattening programme, Ngari’s pigs weigh between 80 and 100 kilogrammes. He sells a kilo for between Sh220 and Sh300 depending on the market rates. If the demand is high, the cost per kilo also rises. He also makes money from selling a piglet at Sh25,000. If he slaughters 50 pigs that weigh 80 kilos and sells a kilo at Sh220, he earns almost Sh800,000 in a month. His focus is to sell 100 pigs and piglets every month.

If you do things right, he says pig farming has good returns.

“Successful pig farming is a combination of the right breed, good housing, proper feeding and disease and pest control that must be followed to the letter,” says Dr Mutea Aritho, a veterinary doctor.

Ngari concurs, adding that if one observes these guidelines, the returns are guaranteed.

“Before you start, do your research well. Get the right breed, this is critical because it determines the offspring,” says the farmer.

He says unlike in dairy farming, there is no true pedigree in pig farming in Kenya. He says he keeps three breeds – Duroc, Hampshire and Large White.

Nutrition is equally important, says the vet. “Nutritional needs vary depending on the pig’s weight, age, and stage of production. Pigs are omnivorous and can eat plants and animal products so their feeds are affordable,” says Dr Mutea.

The doctor recommends planting grasses around a pig farm to supplement the feeds.


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